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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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‘Traveling Aggies’ to head to Cuba, Caribbean Friday

Photo by Provided

The Traveling Aggies will go to Cuba after the travel limitations were lifted during the Obama administration.

Through the Traveling Aggies program, next week former students and friends will cruise along the coasts of Cuba and the Caribbean islands.
Traveling Aggies is a program through the Association of Former Students which offers more than 70 annual trips to countries on each of the seven continents. Primarily, the travelers on these trips consist of former students and current students, but friends and family are welcome to attend as well. The planned trip package to Cuba has been steadily offered since 2012.
On the upcoming trip — Cuba and Caribbean Vibes — 23 former students and friends of Texas A&M will board the Oceania Marina, a cruise ship on the Oceania Cruise Line.
After former President Barack Obama’s transportation chief flew to Cuba in August of 2016 on the first commercial flight to the country since the 1963 missile crisis, the flow of transit between the United States and Cuba started up again. While the trade embargo still prohibits most United States citizens from traveling to Cuba for tourism, some citizens are permitted to travel to the country for educational, religious or humanitarian reasons.
“Because Cuba has been unavailable to most American tourists … [the travelers] see this as an opportunity to see a part of the world that has been closed to them for a long time,” said Kathryn Greenwade, vice president of the Association of Former Students.
Due to the travel restrictions between the United States and Cuba, Greenwade said the Traveling Aggie trips to the destination were limited, but still possible through People to People travel.
“The trip had to be specifically approved, and all of the ones that we offered were so there was a special exception for People to People travel,” Greenwade said. “It was a trip that was fully allowed by United States regulations, but the travel vendor did have to get special approval for those trips, and there were limited opportunities for those.”
Regarding the Traveling Aggies program, Greenwade said the vacations provide a chance for former students to expand their horizons in another country.
“It’s one of our programs that helps provide former students an opportunity to engage with each other, engage with the university and see the world while they’re doing it,” Greenwade said.
Greenwade said although most travelers are not acquainted with each other prior to the escapade, the relationships made on the journey continue after the shared experience.
“There will be some that know each other, a lot of times there will be a few couples who decide to travel together, but then most of the people will not know each other before the trip,” Greenwade said. “But by the time the trip ends, they will have formed friendships that will endure long past this trip.”
According to Greenwade, the Traveling Aggies program will offer an upcoming trip geared specifically toward new A&M graduates — a European trip for three weeks at the beginning of the summer.
“The trips range from everything from a four-day trip to the Kentucky Derby, to a two-week photo safari in Tanzania, to right now, we have a group that is in Australia and New Zealand — currently they’re in the Outback,” Greenwade said.
Marisa Liles, travel program operations manager, will serve as the host for the Cuba and Caribbean Vibes trip. She described several excursions that the travelers will have the option to participate in, including tours of old colonial Havana and the history of defending Havana, as well as the Flora and Fauna, a rural Cuban area tour.  
“We leave for Miami, our first stop is Costa Maya, then Belize, then Honduras, and we’ll spend two days in Havana,” Liles said. “So at each different port, there’s actually quite a different variety of excursions. There’s anywhere from 10 to 25 different excursion options and those range from a wide variety of different activity levels and interests.”
Steve Holliday, traveler on the upcoming Cuba and Caribbean Vibes trip and Class of 1969, has been on several Traveling Aggie trips with his wife. He said their favorite destinations are either the Galapagos, Tahiti or the Canadian Rocky Mountain Express.
“On this trip, it’s going to be the time that we’re going to be able to spend in Havana. It’s obviously a place that we as Americans haven’t been able to easily get to and the trips in the past with the Traveling Aggies, the access to different venues has always been well done,” Holliday said.
As the adventure to Cuba lies ahead within the next week, Liles said she looks forward to the relationships that will be formed on the trip.
“You don’t know who’s going to be on there and what you’re going to get to experience and then you end up with a whole new type of family,” Liles said.
“I think that’s going to be magnified on this trip because it is such a unique, inaugural experience for us to all travel together for the first time and so to get to experience something that’s been so limited up until this point … I think will be a very special experience.”

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